Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

4 November 2011

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

4 November 2011
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General is on his way back from Cannes.  This morning, he met with the G-20 leaders on the last day of the [G-20] Summit, where he urged them to deliver united leadership to address the urgent problems of the world economy.

He took part in the morning working sessions and made interventions on food, energy and climate change.  He also attended the working luncheon on the adoption of the G-20 Communiqué.

Earlier today, he met with the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and we have issued a readout on that meeting.  We have also issued an overall readout of the SG’s participation at the G-20 summit.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council met in closed session for consultations on Cyprus.  As you saw, the President of the Council and the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser spoke at the stakeout after that session.

**Deputy Secretary-General

The Deputy Secretary-General will be travelling to Uruguay from 6 to 11 November to attend the High-level Intergovernmental Conference on “Delivering as One”, the UN’s programme for fostering greater cooperation and even more efficient teamwork in the field.

The meeting will be an opportunity to share the experiences of the “Delivering as One” approach, take stock of the progress made, and identify challenges.  The pilot countries of “Delivering as One” are expected to agree on an outcome statement to send a strong message supporting this approach.

The Deputy Secretary-General will also participate in an event on the Secretary-General’s “UNiTE campaign to end violence against women” and attend a special meeting of women ministers and parliamentarians of MERCOSUR with Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women.

The Deputy Secretary-General will visit the national peacekeeping school and meet with the President and the Foreign Minister of Uruguay, as well as Ministers from other countries attending the Intergovernmental Conference.

** Somalia

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reports that thousands of displaced Somalis are being affected by heavy rains and flooding in parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.  In the Somali capital, Mogadishu, the shelters of nearly 3,000 people in a camp for internally displaced persons have been flooded.  The agency has distributed plastic sheets, buckets and other items.

In Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex, some 5,000 refugees have lost their homes due to floodwaters.  The Agency and its partners have moved them to drier parts of the camp.  For more information on this, please see the agency’s website.

And in a related development, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has announced that it is opening its first humanitarian transit hub for nutrition supplies destined for Somalia.  Situated in Dubai, the new warehouse will help to speed up the delivery of supplies to Somalia.

** Cambodia

The World Food Programme (WFP) has reached 60,000 people affected by flooding in Cambodia with food assistance.  It aims to reach 150,000 people — first with emergency supplies, and then eventually with food-for-work and other schemes in a recovery phase.  The Programme is working with the Government and relief partners to determine how many people are in need and for how long they will need food assistance.  There is more information available on the World Food Programme’s website.

** Indonesia

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says it is greatly saddened by a boat accident earlier this week off the coast of western Java in Indonesia.  The passengers on this boat included Iranian, Afghan and Pakistani nationals.  At least nine people died in the incident, which once again underlines the steps people are willing to take in their search for protection or a better future.

The agency adds that the incident adds urgency to its calls to the international community to cooperate more closely to address irregular migration and provide protection to refugees.  This would avert the need for people to undertake such perilous journeys by boat.  There is more information on the agency’s website.

** Myanmar

Wrapping up his five-day visit in Myanmar, the Chef de Cabinet and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, said his visit is a signal of the importance the Secretary-General and the United Nations attach to the need for international understanding, encouragement and support for Myanmar’s transition.

Mr. Nambiar added that an important purpose of the visit was to directly relay to the Myanmar leadership and other stakeholders the Secretary-General’s encouragement of the important steps taken in recent months to advance the reform agenda led by President Thein Sein, as well as the significant efforts made by all concerned to advance national dialogue and reconciliation.

It is of crucial importance, Mr. Nambiar said, for Myanmar’s regional and global standing to maintain the positive momentum that these initiatives have generated.  He also said that the release of the remaining political prisoners as part of the recent amnesty process and the enactment of the proposed amendment to the political party registration law are steps that can and should be taken as a matter of priority.  Continuous dialogue is also needed to bring about peace and development in border areas.  The full statement made by Mr. Nambiar is available on our website.

**Noon Guest Next Week

On Tuesday, I will have as my guest here at the briefing, Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs.  She will be here to brief on her recent visit to Central America.

And a reminder that Monday is a UN holiday, so there won’t be a briefing.

That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Yes, Nizar?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin, with regard to the human rights situation in Bahrain, there continue to be killing of the protesters also bargaining with the… those in jail that they will be returned their jobs if they drop their demands for reform.  Also, there are many countries still supporting the Government there with weapons and with the… with training.  Is there any serious steps taken… are there any serious steps being taken by the United Nations in order to put an end to that, especially since today we read in a report that the King of Bahrain is one of least popular monarchs remaining on this planet?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has spoken out repeatedly about the need for leaders around the world, and particularly in the region we are talking about, to listen very attentively to the voices of the people, and to understand what their aspirations are.  And that is certainly the case with Bahrain.  And as you also know, the Secretary-General has spoken about the need for there to be follow-through on the commitments made to undertake reform measures.  I am aware of the reports that there have been today about incidents in Bahrain, but I don’t have anything further on that at this point.

Question:  Obviously the Government… there is… are… are not listening to all these calls.  Should there be any further steps bringing it before the Security Council or referring it?

Spokesperson:  Well, Nizar as you know, it’s for the Security Council to decide what matters it takes up.  The Secretary-General for his part has spoken clearly on, not just Bahrain, but on matters across the region, including Syria and Yemen and other places.  And as you know, has just visited Tripoli on Wednesday.  So…

Question:  [inaudible] appealing to these countries which are… who are helping the Bahraini Government by providing weapons and training?

Spokesperson:  As I say, the Secretary-General has repeatedly made his position clear on the need for a peaceful dialogue and for promises made on reforms to be actually carried through and implemented.  Next question, please?  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask some things about Somalia.  It’s now said that Kenya has… has either imposed a no-fly zone or has warned planes against landing at the airport in Baidoa in Somalia claiming that… that they would be bringing weapons to Al-Shabaab, and I wonder what… since the last… I mean, what does the Secretary-General make of this now, you know, pretty significant entry into Somalia by Kenya?  Has he had any meetings on it, has he spoken to any leaders about it and does he… what… what does he think about it?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you will have seen that Mr. [Augustine] Mahiga [Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia] has spoken about this.  And I think that’s what we have to say at the moment.  Yeah?

Question:  Has he spoken about the imposition of either a no-fly zone of threats against aircrafts made by Kenya?

Spokesperson:  Not that… not yet, to my knowledge, but please take a look at what Mr. Mahiga has said.

Question:  And just one… I guess this is… you may or may not have a comment on this — the President of Eritrea has… has asked to speak to the Security Council.  There is some controversy about whether he would and in what format.  And I wanted to ask a sort of a… generally, as… as the top, you know, official in the UN system, does the Secretary-General believe that a Head of State, if he seeks to speak with an organ such as the Security Council, should be allowed to?  That talking is better than… than not talking?

Spokesperson:  It is for the Security Council to decide.  Okay, other questions?  First of all, please, yes?

Question:  Thank so much.  I have actually two questions.

Spokesperson:  Well, Nizar had more than two, so you are welcome, please.

Question:  Thank you, sir.  First one regarding developments today in Syria, after demonstrations and there are 14 more people who were killed in addition to… reported by the locals, hundreds have been transported to the local hospitals.  What’s the Secretary-General’s reaction?  I know he had issued a statement last week, but with regard particularly to today after the Arab League initiative which is obviously not respected.

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, as I just mentioned, the Secretary-General was in Tripoli earlier this week and he spoke about Syria at a press conference.  He was asked there about the agreement that was reached between the League of Arab States and the Syrian Government.  Obviously what he said was that this agreement needed to be implemented without delay.  He said that people have been suffering too much too long in Syria, and he noted that more than 3,000 people have been killed.  And, as you point out, that figure continues to climb.  This is totally unacceptable.  There needs to be accountability, and the human rights of the Syrian people must be protected.  As the Secretary-General said, killing of people in Syria has to stop immediately.  The Secretary-General has also said that President [Bashir al-Assad] has made promises in the past, promises he has not kept.  And particularly with regard to this latest agreement, it is really crucial that it is implemented as soon as possible.  Any other questions?  You had a second question?

Question:  Yeah, a follow-up?

Spokesperson:  Nizar, I’ll come to you in a second.  It’s a separate question?

Question:  It is a separate…

Spokesperson:  All right, Nizar, please follow up.

Question:  How many of those killed, the 3,000 you have you have mentioned, are from the security forces of Syria?

Spokesperson:  As the Secretary-General has said, and I have mentioned from here, too, the killing has to stop from whichever side.  The Syrian authorities have said that members of their security forces have also been killed.  That is beyond dispute.  The point is that there has been far too much bloodshed.  Protestors continue to be killed, as well as security forces.  That’s why the killing has to stop, and that’s why the agreement that has been agreed, the agreement that has been reached between the League of Arab States and the Syrian Government, really needs to be implemented as quickly as possible.  We haven’t seen that yet.

Question:  But wouldn’t you categorize the people who are firing at the security forces as terrorists, for example?  Or burning the buildings?

Spokesperson:  Nizar, it’s not for us to apply labels to people.  What needs to happen is that the killing needs to stop.  Yes?

Question:  [inaudible], sorry, similar incidents in Iraq when they blew up or burned building were called terrorist attacks, rights?

Spokesperson:  Nizar, in many contexts I have said the same thing, it’s really not helpful to compare situations in different countries, because they are taking place in different circumstances.

Question:  How about the release of…

Spokesperson:  Nizar, I am going to the next question.

Question:  But this is the same subject…

Spokesperson:  Nizar, I am going to the next question.  Please?

Question:  With regard to the Secretary-General meeting with the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates in Cannes, according to the statement the discussions were around the peace process in the Middle East, finding new, creative ways to finance development projects and the Palestinian state joining UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization].  Was there any talk about United Arab Emirates filling the gap of… in finance, $60 million that the United States Government has withheld from financing UNESCO to be absorbed by the United Arab Emirates or a coalition of the Arab countries?

Spokesperson:  As you will have seen, the readout is quite detailed, and that is what I have.  I was not in the room during the meeting.  I think that what is crucially important is that the Secretary-General has expressed his intention to work with the Palestinians and the Israelis and all other interested partners to try to cool things down.  As you know, there are a lot of tensions surrounding these questions, settlements and other matters in the region.  And it is important that we do find a way to help the sides exercise restraint at this time.

Question:  A follow-up on that?

Question:  Who is going to pay the $60 million that UNESCO is missing from their budget?

Spokesperson:  As you know, it is for the Member States to provide the funding.  The Secretary-General has said that he obviously has concerns about the implications and the potential impact that the admission to specialized agencies could have on the work of these organizations; on the lives of indeed millions of people around the world.  But, funding is a matter for the Member States.  Yes?

Question:  A follow-up on the… on the United Arab Emirates meeting.  I understand you said you weren’t in the room, but probably there were sort of notes prepared in advance, and I just wanted to know, there is this question of in the United Arab Emirates the prosecution of political opponents for online criticism of the Government, they’re actually being put on trial, Amnesty International has said it’s a… it’s a… it’s a farce and they should be released, and that international bodies such as the UN should… should speak out about it.  I wondered, did this issue come up, was it raised at all by the UN, what does Ban Ki-moon think of this trial of online critics?

Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check and I know that you asked Eduardo about this the other day, and should there be something further, I’ll let you know.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  I am sure you have addressed this issue of the aid flotilla going in… boarded by Israelis and being hauled into an Israeli port.  Did… on this question, did you have a statement on this, already?

Spokesperson:  Not at the moment.  We are obviously monitoring this very closely.  And simply to reiterate what has been said, including by Eduardo just the other day, that there are two key points here:  the need to avoid provocative actions at this time.  And also to understand that the conditions that people live under in Gaza are unsustainable and that the closure of Gaza needs to end so that there can be the free movement of people and goods.

Question:  But now this has gone further, I mean, all I was saying that Israelis have boarded the flotilla and taken it away and to…

Spokesperson:  As I said, we are monitoring this closely, and should we have something further to say, I’ll let you know.  Yes, Tim?

Question: [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  I am going to Tim, and then I’ll come to you, Nizar.  Yes, Tim?

Question:  On the Palestinians, the Secretary-General said he’d spoken to Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton, then he has spoken to the United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister and others about this Palestinian issue, has he spoken to President Abbas or anybody in the leadership about the impact of these joining UNESCO and the UN?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General said in Tripoli that he had spoken to President Abbas.  So, the answer is yes, he has.

[The Spokesperson later clarified that the Secretary-General had mentioned his conversations with President Abbas in an interview with the Associated Press in Cannes.]

Question:  Is there a readout on that?

Spokesperson:  There is, as I say, he has mentioned that, he’s mentioned that while he was in Tripoli.  Right, okay, yes, Nizar?

Question:  Regarding the flotilla which was stopped today, do you… have you established where it was exactly, the location?  Was it in the regional waters of Palestine, or away from it?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think… Nizar, with respect, I don’t think it is for the United Nations to plot coordinates.  So the answer is, no.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Well, Nizar, I am going to Matthew, and then I’ll come back to you, okay?

Question:  For scheduling purposes, I have a question about Myanmar and one about costs, so maybe we’ll ping-pong it back and forth, but on Myanmar, I wanted to be just very sure of this.  I… I’ve seen the various statements put out by this… the Chef de Cabinet, Vijay Nambiar, about his visit.  He said, you know, he wants the… the momentum to continue.

Spokesperson:  Right.

Question:  But I wondered, did he meet with any of ethnic… ethnic minority groups?  And separately, did he raise this issue of the Kachin… that… that… even Mr. Ojea Quintana [Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar] raised that they’re on… on the run from fighting with the Government, that they’re… that they’re not receiving aid.  Was this issue raised?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I just mentioned, and I read out that particular part of the statement that we put out, the question of what is happening in border areas was something that he has explicitly raised in public.  Again, I was not present, so I do not know what took place in every single meeting, but he has publicly stated that this is an important area of concern.

Question:  There seem to… there seem to be complaints from within Myanmar from the ethnic minority groups, and they have representatives — some of whom are from armed groups, some are not — they seem to say that they have been unable to… to meet with him as Special Envoy.  Is that… did he have meetings, not what was said in them, but did he meet with ethnic minority representatives whether you know of… of armed groups or non-armed groups?

Spokesperson:  Well, he has met with a wide range of people as you will have seen.  I don’t have the exact list.  So I will have to check on that, all right?  Okay, you said something about…?

Question:  I was talking about costs, but I [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  About what?

Question:  Costs.  Because you’d said that costs were up to the… the costs were up to the Member States, but I wanted to ask you about a particular costs which was…

Spokesperson:  I didn’t say costs, I said funding.

Question:  Funding, okay, all right.  Anyway, that was just the segue, the real question is this:  The United States had asked and apparently got granted that… that the discussions in the Fifth Committee, Budget Committee, were in fact put on UNTV and televised.  At that meeting, the G-77 and a number of States said that this should hold true for the Third Committee [Social, Humanitarian and Cultural], the Second Committee [Economic and Financial], ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council], and I wanted to know two things.  One, is that going to be done and if so… if not, what’s the… what’s the distinction between a United States request and others’ requests?  And two, how much did it cost to… to… to televise the Fifth Committee?

Spokesperson:  It was webcast.  I don’t have an exact number in my back pocket, Matthew.  There is self-evidently a cost attached to that.  All webcasting, broadcasting, any proceedings at the United Nations Secretariat here at Headquarters.  And obviously if it goes beyond the budget that is already set, that needs to be looked at.  And it is something that I know that my colleagues are looking at — how do you do this in a sustainable way?

Question:  The critique that was raised by the particular G-77 Ambassadors was that they… they saw this as a Secretariat sort of giving in to a United States request as sort of… so that Congressional Republicans could see the fight for the budget…

Spokesperson:  Well, with great respect…

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  With great respect, Matthew, it was agreed by the members of the boards of the Fifth Committee.  So it’s not as if it is one country making a request, and it is then simply carried out.  It was agreed by the other Member States.

Question:  Doesn’t DPI [Department of Public Information] have a budget that… that… this was an additional… I mean I have heard… I have heard of the number, but it actually was an additional cost.  So the Secretariat had to decide to grant the United States request or take it to the Fifth Committee for a vote.  Has it made similar requests to the Third Committee, ECOSOC?  You see what [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, again — I understand — and it’s simply a matter for, if a Member State or a number of Member States would wish for a certain Committee to have those proceedings broadcast, webcast, it’s for them to raise it.  And then obviously it needs to be looked at, how do you do this?  The resources are finite, finite, if not decreasing.  And, therefore, you need to look at how you do this.  And I know that my colleagues in the Department of Public Information are looking into that.  Okay.  Yes, Nizar, and then I am going to Masood, yeah?

Question:  Today there was release of many detainees in… in Syria.  Also a [inaudible] do you have any statement on that, what’s happened?

Spokesperson:  As I have just said, there are also reports, Nizar, of many people being killed today.  And as I just said to you, the agreement that was reached between the League of Arab States and the Syrian Government needs to be implemented in full, swiftly, and the key priority is the killing to stop.  The killing continued today.  Masood?

Question:  I just had asked this question yesterday of Eduardo also.  I said that last year when… year before when the Secretary-General went to the G-20 meeting, the G-20 nations had committed like $1 trillion to be given to the developing countries.  What really happened to that money?  Was it ever… that pledged money ever did it ever become materialized [sic] at all?

Spokesperson:  Yes, I know you asked Eduardo and I saw his answer.  I don’t have anything to add at this point.

Okay, thank you very much.  And as I have mentioned, no briefing on Monday, back on Tuesday.  Enjoy the long weekend if you are having one.  Thank you very much.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.